Cruddy 2020 caused the cancellation of many of the world's street art festivals, so we were happily surprised when Denver, Colorado pulled a rabbit out of its hat and successfully played host to a handful. That got us curious about the street art scene there, so we dove down an internet rabbit hole to check it out.
In September 2020, Crush Walls managed a scaled back version of itself, which put up a whopping 50+ murals (!). Crush Walls is the granddaddy of Denver's street art scene, having taken place since 2010. It's so big now, that smaller, developing street art festivals travel in its orbit. Its future, however, is now in question: Shortly after 2020's festival took place, Crush Walls' founder, Robin Munro, was publicly accused of sexual assault.
The Black Love Mural Festival sprang up in June in response to the George Floyd protests and COLORCON celebrated its second annual festival in August with an all-women line-up. Not far from Denver, Babe Walls held its inaugural festival in Westminster in August and Street Wise Boulder celebrated its second year in September.
That these festivals managed to happen in 2020 is a testament to the power of the street art scene in Denver. And they wouldn't have been possible without stellar local talent. (And a little help from the cannabis industry.) The artists of Denver are intrinsically involved in every aspect of the scene, running festivals, cross-pollinating with one another (professionally), publicizing it by making their voices heard far and wide. All while making rad art.
The work of Thomas Evans, aka Detour, was ubiquitous last year, his richly colored portraits springing up around the country, sometimes capturing well-known faces (George Floyd, John Lewis), but more often the faces of everyday folks from the communities in which he paints. In the wake of George Floyd's death, he, along with Boston-based Hiero Veiga, began a project called Spray Their Name, to memorialize slain Black and Brown victims of police brutality. The project does not seem to be as active as it once was, but the beautiful portraits can still be found around Denver and elsewhere.
Alexandrea Pangburn is another artist intrinsically associated with the Denver scene. Though she's relatively new to Colorado (2017) and street art (2018), she has rapidly established herself as a linchpin of the local scene. Not only is she the organizer of Babe Walls, but she is now organizing and overseeing curation for the RiNo Mural Program. (Denver's River North Art District was previously the home to, and partner of, Crush Walls.) Her spectacular portraits of animals can be seen all over Denver.
If you want to know more about the local artists, Denverite published a great series of street art tours last summer. Each one is curated by a Denver-based street artist.
Looking forward to the 2021 festival season, Babe Walls has announced its festival dates (7/15 through 7/18), as has Street Wise Boulder (9/6 through 9/12).